THE SIBLING AS PARENT
(Trigger Warning: Content about sexual abuse or incest)
Often, an older child will step in when a parent is deported, goes to prison, or dies, and they’ll try to keep their family together. People think about prom dates and sports games for a split second, but they start thinking about finding a job and paying their bills.
Sometimes, the surrogate parent, just a teenager, has to keep the house running and make hard decisions for siblings, all while dealing with their grief and anxiety. A caring sibling and younger brothers and sisters will significantly impact how they grow up.
The parents of a large family may be depressed, drink alcohol, or use drugs, and they may not be able to take care of their kids because of these things.
People in many of these families have to take care of their younger siblings. The oldest sibling is often called in to help out. This situation is set up for horrible sibling relationships later in their lives when all siblings have grown up and become adults.
Reasons for Sibling Discord
There are three reasons for such sibling discord in such a situation that I would like to focus on and describe:
- The siblings are angry at their parents for not taking care of them, but they hide their feelings from their parents by giving them to the older, mother-substitute sibling. Psychoanalytic psychotherapists described displacement as a defense mechanism. Analysts see that people do it mainly to protect themselves from feelings that they don’t want to feel. Because the parents might not feel wrong about how they have mistreated their children, it could be a way for them to keep from feeling that way.
- They get angry at the younger siblings because the older one doesn’t have much power in the family and isn’t very good at being a parent. People who are younger then start to dislike their elder brother or sister for two reasons: abuse and because the older sibling isn’t the one they wanted to take care of in the first place. In other words, reasons #1 and #2 often go hand in hand.
- When there is no parental supervision, the boy sexually abuses the girls. This is because the oldest sibling is a man who is a few years older than the younger ones. Older sisters may also molest younger brothers or even younger sisters from time to time.
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